Amazon is set to launch a new retail concept in Seattle that will allow shoppers to pick items off the shelves, place them directly in their bags, and walk out the store. No need for scanning, no need for checkout queues.
The ecommerce behemoth is no stranger to experimenting with retail concepts, having already launched a number of physical book stores in the US. What sets this concept apart, however, is the groundbreaking use of technology that could change the retail landscape for good.
Focused on groceries, the new ‘Amazon Go’ store completely eliminates the need to queue up to actually purchase your products. Visitors will simply have to scan their mobiles on entry, logging them into their Amazon Prime accounts. Amazon is being evasive about precisely what technology will allow them to eliminate the queues, but patents filed last year suggest that sensors will identify which items have been pulled off the shelves, link them to a mobile device, and debit them from the linked account once they have passed through sensors at the store’s entrance/exit.
This is huge for two reasons. Firstly, it massively reduces one of the major friction points for consumers in the retail experience. On average, a British consumer will abandon their purchase if they have to wait just 6 minutes in a queue. Completely eliminating this potential issue could dramatically increase conversions for retailers at busy times.
Secondly, it could massively reduce running costs, removing the need for costly check-out staff. Eight staff members on minimum wage can cost a business well over £100,000 a year, so removing this cost could be critical to the survival of many retail stores. While good news for the business, this won’t be music to the ears of potential staff members. Amid concerns about increasing automation, Amazon have been quick to suggest that this development will simply allow them to devote more staff to improving the customer experience with better stocking and in-aisle assistance. Whether this actually pans out remains to be seen though.
Making the retail experience as smooth and easy as possible is of paramount importance to many businesses, and Amazon isn’t the only one experimenting with new ideas. Take, for example, Wal-Mart’s ‘Pickup & Fuel’ drive-thru concept. What makes Amazon’s latest venture so exciting, however, is the potential it has to completely alter how we shop. It’s perfectly feasibly that in 10 years time we’ll all be laughing at the idea of queuing to buy something, and that seems pretty exciting to me.
(Credit all images: Amazon)